Meet an Energy Transition Pioneer

Sarah Davis is blazing a new path for women in clean energy.

Like many of her peers, eight-year-old Sarah Davis dreamed of caring for animals when she grew up. Naturally, similar to many kids her age, Davis’s aspirations of becoming a marine biologist didn’t pan out.

Instead, her ambitions evolved, and she was drawn to playing a role shaping the future of energy. Today, she’s a transmission manager—a role that few people of any age comprehend and certainly a job that Davis wasn’t aware of back in elementary school.

Finding Her Inspiration

A string of life’s early exposures subconsciously led her to pursue electrical engineering: an elementary school science fair project on solar panels (her father’s idea); a standout high school physics teacher who sparked her curiosity in the subject; a childhood growing up outside Seattle, where the electrical grid’s fragility was particularly glaring in the days spent recovering power after strong winter storms; and a diverse and influential family history.

“Decarbonizing our power grid will be the biggest engineering challenge of our century,” said Davis. “How can we accomplish that vision without 50 percent of our society?”

On her father’s side, Davis takes inspiration from a long line of engineers and medical professionals—experts in their fields with high levels of educational attainment and lengthy resumes. Her mother’s family, on the other hand, lives in refugee camps in the Middle East, with little access to education or clean water and only an hour of electricity each day—struggles that have instilled in Davis the power of resilience and the value of electricity to society.

“Both sides of my family have empowered and inspired me in different ways, particularly as I sought out a STEM field with few, if any, women to look to for guidance or insight,” said Davis. “Even in undergrad and graduate school, I’d be the only woman, or one of a couple of women, in my classes.”

woman with model wind turbine
Sarah Davis at the Wild Horse wind farm in Ellensburg, Washington, in 2012.

In fact, Davis’s role is so highly specialized that few people in general—much less women—hold her credentials. As a transmission manager, Davis manipulates a proprietary power system model of the nation’s critical engineering infrastructure to seek out opportunities to inject new electrical capacity into the grid. At a time when transmission capacity is clean energy’s largest constraint and competition is fiercer than ever before, Davis’s role is integral to not only Apex, but also the industry and the nation—all the more reason she’s hoping to see more women enter the field.

“Decarbonizing our power grid will be the biggest engineering challenge of our century,” said Davis. “How can we accomplish that vision without 50 percent of our society?”

Inspiring Others as a STEM Superhero

Before joining Apex, Davis spent several years at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) researching the amount of power generation capacity required to support 100% transportation
electrification.

That Department of Energy–funded project opened Davis’s eyes to the challenge ahead and inspired her to make the jump from a research lab to a clean energy company actively accelerating the grid’s decarbonization.

Everyday Superheroes: Women in Energy Careers book cover
Find the Superheroes books and more at stemsuperheroes.com.

Her work in the industry has earned Davis another, unexpected title—one that surely would have impressed her eight-year-old self: STEM Superhero. The “Superheroes” book series aims to share the stories, careers, and superpowers of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Davis epitomizes the project: not only do her accomplishments confront one of the nation’s biggest challenges, but her work inspires well beyond the office. For more than eight years, she’s volunteered with Expanding Your Horizons and the Future City Competition, eager to share her experiences and expertise with young students to help them imagine a career that they’d perhaps never be exposed to otherwise.

“We’re on the frontier of new technologies and new ways of operating the grid that will decarbonize our way of life. With so much opportunity in our industry, it’s vital for us to bring young women and other minority communities into the field,” said Davis.

As a STEM Superhero, Davis is empowered with the knowledge that these touchpoints—whether an energy superhero in a book or a sustainable city competition—can share a whole world of career paths with today’s children. After all, in just a few years, they’ll be the ones walking in her shoes.

Authors

Cat Strumlauf

Director, Corporate Communications

Cat works on external communications, digital content creation, and media and project partner relations at Apex. Prior to joining the company, she worked in broadcast journalism as a reporter. Cat holds a MSJ from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a BA in marketing and entrepreneurship from the College of William and Mary’s Mason School of Business.

Cat Strumlauf